There is a still a ways to go until the territorial freedom of information legislation takes effect for the Yellowknife municipal government, mayor Rebecca Alty says.
Community governments were brought under the NWT’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) Act following amendments announced in July by Justice Minister R.J. Simpson.
In addition to improving accountability through access to government information, the changes give the Information and Privacy Commissioner order-making authority and the ability to conduct access and privacy reviews.
Working group to help transition ATIPP
But for municipalities like Yellowknife, ATIPP won’t govern their freedom of information processes until the GNWT drafts the relevant legislation.
“We’re still under the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA),” Alty said. “People can still file freedom of information requests through that.”
While the GNWT prepares the legislation, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is collaborating with the Department of Justice to support community governments before ATIPP becomes effective.
A working group, launched in 2019 is helping to inform communities of how and when ATIPP will take effect, offer ideas on how governments can prepare for it and set out best approaches for implementation, said GNWT spokesperson Aimee Dentinger.
The group will also assess the resources of municipal governments for access, privacy and record keeping capabilities to bring them under the ATIPP Act.
Individual municipalities still have to be named in the regulations before they must comply with the Act.
For now the priority is determining the scope of the group’s mandate and there is no timeline for its work, Dentinger added.
Alty said the working group has met with the Yellowknife government only once since 2020.
City needs to see GNWT legislation
It’s hard to know at this point if the Yellowknife government has the resources to adopt ATIPP, she said.
“We don’t know the exact implications until we see a draft of the legislation. All municipalities said that we need support to ensure we can be in compliance with it.”
It will require some degree of funding to make municipalities fully compliant with the act, but Alty couldn’t give a dollar estimate. It could also entail hiring more staff.
“Considering the City is already underfunded by the GNWT, to add one more service expectation could be a challenge. The working group is supposed to look into what resources are required to get community governments to comply with the legislation. The GNWT has ATIPP coordinators for every department. So will the city need an ATIPP coordinator whose sole job is doing ATIPP?”
Logistics aside, Alty dismisses the notion that the public can’t access city information before ATIPP takes full effect.
“Our government is transparent. People can attend council meetings. All of our meetings are broadcast online and the minutes are available. If anyone wants information they can get it. And they can file a request form to get more information.”